By: Matt Butler
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Man. These aren’t riffs, they are more like intonements. Massive statements full of gravitas (and gravity) that makes it clear that the listener is a tiny, temporary portion of the vast, cold, empty universe. And lets face it, it is some feat for one song to conjure such emotions. But then again, this is Ommadon. And one song from Ommadon is… well, different to a regular tune.
Let’s take a step back for a second. My review of Ommadon’s last album likened their slow-moving heaviness to a boiling mud pool. This one – their seventh, but the first they deem worthy of being self-titled – is more like sitting in a steam room with the lights turned off. It is claustrophobic, atmospheric and stifling at times, but once you’ve got used to it, strangely comforting and relaxing.
It is made up of two sides, which are essentially two halves of the same 40-minute song. And it makes a lot more use of a good drone than their last one. Because it takes skill to make your chosen instruments alter infinitesimally so the drone weaves and squirms enough to keep the listener interested – and a little freaked out. And it helps if there is the promise of a crushing riff or two, with drums like boulders, looming on the horizon.
If you weren’t a fan of Ommadon’s previous six albums, you’ll find nothing to like with this one. Similarly, if the relative riffery in Side A of 2015’s Empathy for the Wicked was your thing, then be warned, this one is a lot more on the atmospheric end of the scale. Yes, the atmosphere may be a miasma, but it is an atmosphere nonetheless.
It begins with what sounds like evil robots performing a Gregorian chant. Or perhaps a bunch of zombie Tibetan monks going through their daily meditations. Then the familiar Ommadon low-end rumblings begin. And like a distant avalanche, they growl in the background, while some ringing guitar high notes add a layer. This goes on for six minutes – although just like the eight-minute opening sequence of the film The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is completely devoid of speech yet still riveting, the beginning of this tome from Ommadon keeps you on tenterhooks despite seemingly keeping to the same drone. It does change, but it manages to do so almost unnoticeably.
Then BOOM. The first boulder drops. And BOOM. Another one whacks you around the head. And another one. The first one comes so suddenly that the listener is genuinely shocked, if a little relieved that the claustrophobia is over.
The zombie Gregorians (or was it Tibetans?) are discernible in the background throughout, as are the intermittent ringing guitars, as the crushing riffs continue. And it is this overdubbing and layering which makes this album stand out from Ommadon’s previous efforts. They are masters at turning a long, slow song into something which transports your mind into a deep, dark hole. And just like walking in total darkness, you see things that aren’t really there. Or at least you don’t think they are. Either way, the experience is unnerving. But totally worth it.